Tag Archives: community

Where I Am

I’m lying on a plush, king-size bed in a cozy little room in a cabin nestled deep in the mountains adjacent to Vancouver at the West Coast Wilderness Lodge in Egmont, British Columbia. I once again find myself speechless at how beautifully generous and thoughtful Lululemon is, as I’ve been invited to the 2013 Ambassador Summit as one of a select group of 27 other yogis from around North America.

We were met at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel by a welcoming committee in a conference room set up to help us relax upon our arrival with yoga mats, food and drink. After eating, we were whisked off by taxi to the harbour-front port where seaplanes flew us over the coastal mountains for 25 minutes before landing at the dock of the hotel. We climbed the short hill to the front desk, got our room keys, and scattered to relax and prepare for a yoga class.

The coming days will be an opportunity for us all to be inspired by the galvanizing words and tools shared by the incomparable Susanne Conrad, the Director of Possibilities for the company, a woman who understands the need to dream as much as she understands the importance of a profit & loss statement. Interspersed amongst our lectures and activities with her are yoga classes, hikes through the jaw-droppingly beautiful forest we’ve burrowed into, and the opportunity to get to know each other. I don’t take this opportunity lightly: meeting others who do what I do from different parts of the continent and realizing just how vast and far-reaching our community is. I feel so insanely lucky. But I also know that luck has nothing to do with it.

I work hard. I infuse every ounce of myself into what I do, and I’m beyond grateful that that effort and intention continues to be acknowledged and honoured. Lululemon must have seen something in me early on in my career, because they’ve been backing me up and encouraging me for over 4 years now. And yet even with all that support behind me, I now find myself in this room on the other side of the country, being treated like I matter. I appreciate it, obviously, but for different reasons than you might think.

I work to inspire, encourage and elevate people. I aim to bring people from a place where they’re mainlining to a place where they’re constantly being one-upped by the beauty and the highs that life has in store for each of us. It can be hard work, very demanding, and requires me to stay high energy for those I’m teaching/mentoring/lecturing to, etc… I often have moments where I feel depleted, where I need to refill my own cup before I can authentically and honestly go into the next teaching environment and inform others on how to refill theirs. Lululemon’s constant and unwavering support, consistently putting the company’s money where its mouth is, helps me refill my cup. I feel inspired. I feel honoured. I feel like it’s no accident that I’ll be spending my 40th birthday here on Thursday, an age which many faiths and belief systems attribute to the anchoring of the soul in the body. I’m where I’m supposed to be.

I want to thank every single person from Lululemon who has contributed to my being here. The list is too long to get into here, but you know who you are. I don’t take ANY of this for granted. I am aware of how fortunate I am to have people listening to me and giving back what I work so hard to initially offer. I’ll be back in Montreal at the end of the week and will have more to share from this moment on the edge of the country. For now, love to all.

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From Paros to Paris Pt 4

imageI’ve opened my iPad before the seat belt signs have been turned off, eager to write this as soon as the wheels of the plane I’m on have lifted off of Greek soil. So far there’s no sign of my infraction risking the lives of my co-passengers, and so I’ll keep going with the assumption that this blog post is meant to be pounded out now 🙂

The Paros retreat ended today on a great note with one last breakfast en groupe. One last morning to feast on the greatest 10% fat yoghurt (that NO North American company can ever duplicate as they reduce calories and fat, despite the trend to market yoghurt as “Greek Style”), the most delectable watermelon, bananas, pears, tomatoes and cucumbers, and the revelation that is Portokalopita (look it up…you won’t regret it). Our group splintered off as we drove away in our separate vehicles, and continued to do so as our separate ferries whisked us away onto the next step of our journeys.

This retreat has been a really special one, in much different ways than previous ones. This group was the first to want to be together almost all the time. This group was the first to express the desire to have the classes brought to an intermediate level. And this group was the first that saw three people stay for the first week, and three more come for the last 4-5 days. Regardless of all of that, this group wasn’t completely unique to past ones, as once again, a fantastic group of like-minded souls came together from different spots around the globe to bask in the soul-stirring energy that is only found in Greece.

Every person who participated in this retreat, regardless of where they came from or why they were there, walked away with more than they arrived with. From having a clearer idea of where they want their life to go, to knowing that being away from family was a true test of patience, these people gained something from the experience. And all the while, around our asana and iRest classes, they were given the platform from which they could jump off into the unknown and explore the miracles that are found in Paros. Hunting down new beaches on a daily basis, descending on the city centres of Naoussa and Parikia, visiting a local winery…there was stuff to do, even in the remoteness of this island paradise. Throughout all of it, we all knew that no matter what our days consisted of, we were coming home. Home to Margarita Studios, and home to Stella Fyrogeni.

Stella runs her hotel with one intention: to make sure everyone staying there is happy. If that means whipping up a last-minute meal for someone not drawn in by that evening’s delectable dish, so be it. If that means giving someone another room that better suits their needs, so be it. If that means driving into the port to drop off or pick someone up, so be it. If that means preparing a meal based on requests from her guests, so be it. This woman goes above and beyond what’s necessary, and so it comes as no surprise that she will celebrate her 25th year with Margarita Studios in 2014. She was a mother to us all, even if only for 10 days, but a mother nonetheless.

I didn’t find Stella or her hotel on my own. I had help from Michael Shepherd, who after living on the island of Paros for 10 years, familiarized himself with local businesses, their owners and their customs. Not only did he take care of the logistics of accommodation, meals and transportation for us, he does the same regardless of activity and interest on any Greek island. He also works at providing personalized travel guides for Greece, Ireland and Czech Republic. Michael brought his own signature style to the retreat by taxiing people around and organizing a couple of meals for us at alternate locations around the island, and I can honestly say that the retreat would have not been the same without his input.

As the second and last retreat of 2014 starts to recede in our calendars, we know that it steeps in our awareness and will inflect future moments with its images, sounds, tastes, smells, and sensations. Anyone who has visited the Greek islands is all too aware of how the light falls on the landscape after 4pm, how the vividness of the bougainvillea jumps out to meet you wherever you can find it, and how the sun and salt-drenched air softly envelopes you regardless of the time of day. These memories serve to not only inform the future, but change how we define what we know by expanding our frame of reference. They serve to provide new heights of what we know beauty to be, and in the case of this (and previous) retreat groups, they also serve to provide new heights of how we define community.

Those who weren’t in Santorini with us in 2011, Croatia in 2012, Istanbul in April 2013 or Paros over the last 10 days won’t ever be able to fully understand what it’s been like in these albeit briefly adopted families. The essence of the groups isn’t only comprised of the location we live in – it’s built on the personalities that inform it. Every single person who participates brings their own uniqueness to the moment, and without them, the moment wouldn’t be what it is destined to be.

For every single one of you who is on your way back from Paros, know that you’re taking a little bit of every other person’s energy from the group with you. Thank you for making the retreat what it was.

For every single one of you who has come on any of my retreats, thank you for proving me right when I insisted on ignoring that inner voice of doubt that almost talked me out of holding my inaugural solo retreat in Santorini in 2011.

You are all family, regardless of how long we spent with each other and whether or not we stayed in touch.

The retreats for 2014 are being organized, bit by bit, and are being tweaked based on past retreats to ensure that they live up to the standards I know will help bring fresh insight and perspective to the participants. Full details will be made public when they’re finalized, and so in the interim, feel free to visit the Facebook page with pics from this latest jaunt, and I’ll post again later next week from Paris.

From Paros to Paris Pt 3

imageThe first rain to fall in 6 months has passed through Paros over the last 3 hours and has left a warm,  blustery wind in its wake. We’re halfway through this retreat, and we are surrounded by beauty. The landscape here is absolutely divine. The shades of blue that are everywhere, from the sky to the ocean, are indescribable and inimitable. The food is literally overflowing with fullness, richness, tastiness…a veritable multi sensory experience. The kindness from the locals is exemplary, something we should all be aligning ourselves with. These people give. Of spirit, of time, of food, of comfort and of kindness, these people are givers. We are surrounded by light and beauty and each other, and the bonding amongst the members of this group and the people who have welcomed us to this hotel is intensifying daily.

We will have a day-long boat tour of Antiparos tomorrow, during which we’ll stop at various beaches and take an hour to practice asana on one of them. I’m seeing, once again, how overflowing with all the things that truly matter these retreats are. I’m seeing, once again, how they leave each one of us imprinted with the experience that collectively enjoying everything that life has to offer. As all of you who have come on retreat with me are aware of, these events stay with you vividly, the images and memories of which never fade in vibrancy. Each time I realize the power of these retreats, I find myself floored by the position I have come to be in. I work hard to make my life and the life of others full and rich and complete and full of abundance. And when I accomplish what I set out to, it leaves me silent. And stunned. And grateful.

If I died this minute, I would have a smile on my face and peace in my heart. I can’t begin to express the magnitude of how humbled I am to find myself, after years of dedication and perseverance, in the position where I’m affecting the lives and happiness of others. Hopefully these words are a good start.

Sending light from Greece…

 

The Beginning in the End

I’m sitting in the airport waiting for my flight that will take me away from Santorini and bring me to Rome, and ever since I woke up early this morning, I’ve been bursting with emotion. The gratitude and happiness I feel are indescribable. To have had all the participants of my first solo yoga retreat be left with feelings of joy and wonder and love and disbelief at the beauty and surrealism of this island and its landscape has taken me by surprise. To have had them connect to each other the way they have has taken me by suprise. To have had them connect to me the way they have has taken me by surprise. To have been told by many of them how this experience has changed their lives and how it will stay with them forever has taken me by surprise. Most of all, to be leaving with such a bursting heart takes me by surprise.

I am once again leaving my spiritual epicenter. This happened to me 3 years ago after I left this magical island the first time, but this time is different. The people who took a leap of faith by trusting me enough to invest in themselves through me and my efforts to organize and execute this retreat have become family. We became a community over the last 10 days, and what we experienced together is ours. It forever will be, and hearing from many of them that they are waiting for the next retreat to be planned gives me added fuel to make the next one equally, if not more, spectacular as this one has been. This retreat would not have been the same without every single person who remains part of our community. The dynamic between us all remains that which exists among those who have gone through something that alters the way we see our lives and the lives of others, not to mention the world we live in and our place in it.

From the depths of my soul, I thank each and every one of you who contributed to our community, every one of you that not only showed up to classes, but who shared your lives with myself and each other. As overcome as I feel in this second, and as I sit here waiting to explore other places on my onward travels, I know that this retreat is the beginning of something massive for each and every one of us. That despite our leaving to go back to our respective homes, we have started something together that has taken on a life of its own and that will grow and evolve and transform into unpredictable and indescribable forms of beauty and truth. Thank you for listening to me and allowing me to share what I believe is relevant. You teach me more than you know, and you encourage me to continue on this path that I find myself, living a life greater than I ever could have imagined for my Self.

Love to you all 🙂

Bram
September 16, 2011
Santorini Airport

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Non Nobis Solum

We’re three weeks away from the 5th Annual Montréal Yoga Mala, one that is slated to be the most successful in terms of attendance, and, potentially, money raised (this year all funds are donated to Santropol Roulant). Dawn Mauricio originally started the initiative five years ago, and I joined her as an organizer last year. The growth in the response from the yoga community, even in the last two years, has been huge. The 2010 Mala attracted 46 yogis and yoginis, who joined us in Parc Jeanne Mance along with the nine different yoga teachers we had enlisted from nine different yoga studios around Montréal for a celebratory 108 sun salutations. Each teacher taught 12 salutations in their own style, and by the end of the event, after all the prize-drawing, post-yoga eating, and mingling, we had raised over $7500 for that year’s charity, Le Garde Manger Pour Tous. In terms of pre-registration, this year has almost double the amount of people, with more expected to join us at the event!

Becoming involved with the Mala allowed me to accomplish two main goals: I was  able to affect change and delve into a little philanthropy, but it also gave me the opportunity to bring the Montréal yoga community together as one united movement. Having been a yoga student far longer than a teacher, I have definitely felt a disconnect from one studio to another, and even amongst teachers. Whereas cities like Toronto often have town hall-like meetings for their yoga circles, where businesses and teachers come together and share their experiences while offering insight and advice to each other, Montréal’s community has seemed more the sum total of many individuals doing their own thing, often struggling through the challenges of starting up as a teacher or studio owner. Becoming involved with Dawn’s project allowed me to actively join forces with a woman I respect and admire so that we could unify our community and allow that unity to be seen by the students that so often rotate from one studio to another in any given week, and who maintain that cycle of visiting different studios so that they can be exposed to different styles and energies. An amazing byproduct of our efforts was seeing the teachers we had assembled mingling, leaders in our community talking together, laughing, and basking in the glow that accompanies a coming-together of intentions that the Mala offers.

This year’s Mala once again brings us to a place of unity, where the excitement that builds as we get closer to the day of the event becomes palpable, enough so that we’re seeing double the amount of people registered compared to last year. Ironically, this year’s Mala is slated to be the last one, mainly due to the demands that the organization and execution of the event places on Dawn and myself. Our teaching aside, we’re both incredibly busy and the preparation and orchestration of everything that needs to be done to make the Mala a success is, in itself, another full-time job for 6 months out of the year. And so we feel that it’s time to let go of it, making this year’s Montreal Yoga Mala the last one of its kind with us at the helm. Having said that, we are actively looking for someone, or a group of people, who are interested in taking the reins from us…who have the time and energy to devote to it. The benefits of being able to bring people together to give up our time and funds to people who could benefit from them are immeasurable, it’s just question of being able to commit to something and then honor that commitment.

If you feel like this is something that interests you, something that you could really be able to manage and execute, then please let me know at bram.levinson@gmail.com or feel free to contact Dawn at dawnmrcio@gmail.com.  Despite the decision that Dawn and I have made, we would be ecstatic to see the tradition carry on with new energy infusing it from new organizers driven by passion and a desire to give back. It has been a highlight in my life and my career to accompany Dawn throughout the process that the Mala offers, one that should be lived by us all…

Montréal’s Yoga Mala takes place on Sunday, May 29th in Parc Jeanne Mance on the corner of Duluth and Esplanade from 10am-1pm. Rain or shine. For all information concerning the event, please visit the Montréal Yoga Mala website and/or Facebook page.